Wednesday, April 4, 2018

'I, Bowtie'*

Augusta Stripe Bowtie by High Cotton
(first published in North State Journal, 4/4/18)

‘I, Bowtie, simple though I appear to be, merit your wonder and awe. If you become aware of the miraculousness which I symbolize, you can help save the freedom we want in America.

Not a single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me. This sounds fantastic, doesn't it?

A bowtie appears simple. There's cotton or silk, dye, thread, a bit of metal and a printed label.

I, Bowtie begin with a bale of cotton, grown in the South. Think about the tractors and combines used in harvesting and taking the cotton to a nearby gin operation in New London, NC. Think of all the people and numberless skills that went into the fabrication of those magnificent machines: mining ore, making steel and its refinement into complicated machines and motors; farm hands that planted cotton seeds and tilled the soil and looked after the crop all summer long.

American cotton is shipped from the cotton gin to a spinning operation in Thomasville to be spun into usable thread. American cotton thread is shipped to weaving operations in England or Portugal to be woven into fabric that my Southern creators have designed, fabric which might come back to any one of the thousands of people involved in this miraculous journey in the form of bowties, long ties or cummerbunds if they order them on-line.

Thousands of workers transport fabric on ships or by air freight back across the Atlantic to a cut-and-sew operation in Pilot Mountain. Dozens of seamstresses take turns sewing bowties after this precious fabric has been cut to precise specifications. Then it is shipped to a fulfillment center in Butner where dozens of employees pack and ship bowties to individuals and retail stores across the globe.

No single worker does any of this work because he himself individually wants a bowtie.

There are many among this vast multitude who have never seen a bowtie nor would they know how to tie one if they had it. Each of these thousands of people sees that he can exchange his tiny know-how in the process for the goods and services he needs or wants even if it is not me, a simple Southern bowtie.

There is a fact still more astounding: the absence of a master mind, of anyone dictating or forcibly directing these countless actions which bring a bowtie into being.

Instead, we find the ‘Invisible Hand’ at work.

I, Bowtie, am a complex combination of miracles: cotton, metal, weaving and so on. An even more extraordinary miracle has been added: the configuration of creative human energies—millions of tiny know-hows configurating naturally and spontaneously in response to human necessity and desire and in the absence of any human master-minding!

Man can no more direct these millions of know-hows to bring me into being than he can put molecules together to create a cotton plant in the first place.

If one is aware that these know-hows will naturally arrange themselves into creative and productive patterns in response to human necessity and demand—that is, in the absence of governmental or any other coercive masterminding—then one will possess an absolutely essential ingredient for freedom: a faith in free people.

Freedom is impossible without this faith.

The lesson I have to teach is this: Leave all creative energies uninhibited. Merely organize society to act in harmony with this lesson. Let society's legal apparatus remove all obstacles the best it can.

Permit these creative know-hows freely to flow. Have faith that free men and women will respond to the ‘Invisible Hand’ of freedom and personal self-interest, integrity and fairness.

This faith will be confirmed. I, Bowtie, seemingly simple though I am, offer the miracle of my creation as testimony that this is a practical faith, as practical as the sun, the rain, a cotton plant and the good earth.’

 *adapted from the classic "I, Pencil" essay by Leonard Read (1898-1983) who founded the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE ) in 1946 and served as its president until his death. 

"I, Pencil," was published in the December 1958 issue of The Freeman.

High Cotton website:

(My wife and sons started High Cotton in 2010 and have been an amazing example of how the free enterprise system works when people do the right thing with integrity and honor. It has been a privilege to walk alongside of them and this post is a tribute to their hard work and discipline and success)

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